OBITUARY : Beecher Moore

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The Independent Online
Beecher Moore was one of the backbones of racing dinghy development in this country and a respected influence on the international sailing scene for over half a century.

His great contribution to the sport was in realising what the public wanted. He was the marketing man behind Jack Holt, the designer of an estimated 220,000 sailing dinghies that enabled the popular expansion of boating from an exclusive pastime to a sport widely available to the masses.

Born in 1908 in Rochester in New York State, Moore moved to Britain before his first birthday. Following an education on both sides of the Atlantic he first studied Geology at Harvard University, supporting himself for a year of his time as a waiter. The academic life did not suit him and somewhat reluctantly, as he considered business to be a dirty word, he joined his father in Britain in the family company, Moore's Modern Methods, producer of a widely used accounting records system. This remained his primary business interest for many years.

Moore's father believed that it was important for the boss to be the first to arrive in the morning as this set an example to other employees. He felt too that it was then acceptable for him to leave after lunch with a clear conscience and enjoy the afternoon pursuing his own interests. Beecher Moore, following his father's lead, devoted his afternoons to sailing.

From the early 1930s sailing became a dominant interest in Moore's life. Before the Second World War he was involved in what is acknowledged as the first trapeze used in a sailing dinghy - in the form of a bell rope on a Thames Rater. This so impressed Sir Peter Scott, who occasionally sailed with Moore, that he later adapted the idea for his own International Fourteen, adding a belt to provide better comfort for the crew.

The invention was an immediate success and Scott won the Prince of Wales Cup in 1938. Moore's invention gave the users such an advantage over the rest of the fleet that the device was banned. He also experimented with the use of sliding seats to provide righting moment, having first encountered them in Uffa Fox's cruising canoe, Brynhild.

Moore joined the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club at Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex and sailed in a number of J-Class yachts including Sir Richard Fairey's Shamrock and Sir Thomas Sopwith's Endeavour. He was part of the crew of Endeavour I in the America's Cup challenge of 1934 when he was, uniquely, the only American to sail aboard the British challenger.

After the war, Moore joined forces with the Thames boatbuilder Jack Holt, as his sailing companion and business partner. Holt was a seat-of-the- pants practical boatbuilder, sailor and designer. Together they were instrumental in the development and launching of many classes that were responsible for the growth and leadership in dinghy design enjoyed by Britain for many years.

First, in 1946, the 14ft Merlin class was introduced. Holt and Moore together went on to win the class national championship. This was followed during the next 20 years by the introduction of many popular dinghy classes including the Hornet, GP Fourteen, Enterprise and Mirror. While Holt designed the boats and built the prototypes, Moore, in the background, was responsible for the all-important marketing and development of each class; and the association of owners who in turn helped promote the design and ensure its continued support and success.

Moore expanded the Jack Holt business to take in fittings, clothing, sailmaking and mastmaking; all succeeded and weathered the many storms that have beset the boatbuilding industry over the past 50 years. The original company is still active in south-west London under the direction of Moore's son, Chadwick.

In his time Moore won the 12ft National Championship twice and the class premier trophy, the Burton Cup, once; he won the Merlin championship once as helmsman and four times as crew, the 12 square metre Sharpie National Championship; and was four times Hornet world champion. He was senior vice-president of the International 470 class, and a vice-president of the Amateur Yacht Research Society.

Over the years he was heavily involved in the administration of sailing at both national and international level. Moore served on many Royal Yachting Association and International Yacht Racing Union committees. He was chairman of the Committee for the Weymouth Speed Sailing Week; Commodore of the International Tempest class; and an early advocate for international women's sailing. He was a founder member of the Guild of Yachting Writers; its successor, the Yachting Journalists' Association, made him an honorary life member.

Apart from his interest in sailing Moore lived life to the full in many other pursuits. He loved good wine, art and literature. In his heyday, even before the Swinging Sixties, he had a wide reputation as a larger- than-life party giver and goer. For many years he was a partner in the restaurant Parkes, in Beauchamp Place, London. From 1940 his main residence was a flat in a building full of barristers' chambers in the Middle Temple. Having been an Air Raid Warden in the area, he had been able to secure a lease when chambers were easily available during the war and remained a resident there, much to the despair of some stalwarts of the legal profession.

Despite spending most of his life in Britain Moore remained an American citizen and declined an invitation to represent the United Kingdom in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, as this would have meant renouncing American nationality and taking a British passport.

Peter Cook

Beecher Moore, yachtsman: born Rochester, New York 16 September 1908; married 1954 Bobbie Seal (died 1971; one son), 1972 Naona Lanier (one stepson, two stepdaughters); died London 10 November 1996.